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1. Interview

Conversation between the investigator and the user or expert. Questions are asked by the investigator and responses given by the person being interviewed.

Toothbrush users interviewed


Generally used during the initial phases of a project, but can be of value throughout the design process


  • Decide on a formal or informal tone. For a formal interview, develop a list of structured questions. In an informal interview you allow the conversation to develop naturally
  • If possible, choose a location that is relevant to the user or the project focus, such as their home or workplace, so that you can see them in context
  • Interviewing several people at once can be useful to assess group dynamics but the group must be well-known to each other to get useful information. The conversation needs to be controlled to give equal opportunity to everyone


An interview can also be conducted over the telephone, but there are some pros and cons to be aware of:

  • You can access remote users or those wanting anonymity
  • There is no way to observe reactions or read body language
  • Some people may prefer to speak by phone while others may open up better in person


  • Relatively quick
  • Good access to the personality of the user
  • The conversation can be directed by the investigator and refocused if necessary
  • Good depth of information achievable
  • Good access to people’s aspirations and emotional reactions
  • Users can show or respond to objects that are relevant to the interview
  • Investigator can gauge body language


  • Can be time-consuming to arrange interviews 
  • Relies heavily on quality of the questions and personality of the interviewer
  • Questions can be leading, and you may influence the response. Users will sometimes give you the answer they think you want to hear
  • Limited value for comparative studies. You cannot give every user exactly the same interview
  • Limited to insights and issues of which the user is conscious and able to verbalise. You only hear what they say rather than see what they do
  • Recordings can be lengthy to analyse 


  1. Introduce yourself and your project before conducting the interview to prepare the user. This may be done via email, an initial telephone call, or through a third party.
  2. Arrange a time for the interview when both parties are available to commit some time and talk freely.
  3. Try to choose a location that is not too noisy or distracting and affords a level of privacy.
  4. Aim for between 6 to 12 interviews. Interviewing small numbers of people can yield good results.
  5. Do not rush but try to keep the interviews short. Between 15 minutes and two hours is usually enough.
  6. Prepare a topic guide or a list of questions to help you to cover the important areas and remember to ask them.
  7. Start by asking general questions about the user and their lifestyle. Try to understand who they are. This will help to build a context for their answers and be useful when comparing responses from different people.
  8. Do not be too rigid with your plan. Aim to lead the conversation to explore important topics but allow the user to answer freely.
  9. Ask people to explain answers further if you want more detail.
  10. Record the conversation where possible using audio or video, as it is difficult to interview and take notes at the same time. Always get permission. Never put the camera between you and the person being interviewed, as this creates a barrier.
  11. Set aside some time immediately after each interview to make notes and general comments while they are fresh in your mind. This can save you hours of trying to remember the most interesting or important things later.



  • Investigations into a specific topic area to gather details where no other information is available
  • Gaining an in-depth understanding of individual people
  • Getting technical information or opinions from experts